Judy Garland: The Tragic And Heartbreaking Life Story Of A Talented Child Star

Date November 17, 2017

Judy Garland was an American actress who was born in 1922. Her vocal abilities and pure acting talent were one of the many reasons people loved her. Her most famous role was as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, which was released in 1939.

Garland was thrust into the limelight at a very young and vulnerable age. Instead of exploring her talents and living the dream, she ended up being a victim of the dark side of Hollywood. Her tragic story still breaks hearts 48 years after she passed.


Before she was even born

Ethel Milne Gumm was not thrilled when she found out she was pregnant in 1921. She and her husband, Frank Gumm, even considered terminating the pregnancy. But because abortion was not permitted at the time, and there were so many terrible stories about people who engaged in the illegal procedure, the couple decided to keep their baby.

On June 10, 1922, Frances Ethel Gumm - who would later be known as Judy Garland - was born.

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An unwanted child

When she was two and a half years old, Garland took part in her first ever theatrical performance in Grand Rapids. This debut launched a lifetime love and passion for singing. And it turned out to be her safe haven from all the other troubles in her life. She said in 1963, "The only time I felt wanted when I was a kid was when I was on stage, performing."


An unstable home

While no one was exactly sure why Ethel wanted to terminate when she was pregnant with her child, there were rumors that this may be because of Frank's alleged affairs with young men and teenage boys. Eventually, things became too much that Ethel and her children moved out of their home and to California in 1926.

Instead of the stability that should have been achieved after the separation, things became even more confusing for the children. Later in life, Garland recalled her parents always breaking up and getting back together. It was pretty hard for her to understand at the time.

Sadly, this situation seemed to have a long-term effect on the young girl who later had trouble with stability in her own life. She was married five times before she passed on at the age of 47.


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A famous child

Ethel was determined that her child would be famous, whatever it took. She signed her little daughter up for many gigs and even a few appearances at popular nightclubs. The fact that some of the locations they went to were not suitable for children did not deter Ethel. In an interview with Barabara Walters in 1967, Garland recalled the very painful ordeal she experienced as a child.

She would sort of stand in the wings when I was a little girl and if I didn't feel good, if I was sick to my tummy, she'd say, 'You get out and sing or I'll wrap you around the bedpost and break you off short!' So I'd go out and sing.

According to her biographer, Gerald Clark, Ethel was the one who first began to offer her child pills before she was even ten years old. In fact, from Garland's story, we can certainly see why the singer once referred to her mother as "the real Wicked Witch of the West."

Ethel's effort paid off. In 1935, Garland was signed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. But this did not provide the peace or happiness that she hoped for. She was criticized a lot because of her looks. She was less than five feet tall and had a curvature of the spine. She was also overweight. The studio management was so determined to make her fit their ideal that they offered her nothing but chicken broth and cottage cheese. In addition, she was prescribed diet pills. At the age of 13, she was constantly being watched and told what to eat and how often.

Drugs to keep up with the pace

As she became even more popular and worked on several films, she was required to put in long hours. It was not unusual for her workday to end at 4 or 5 am. Even as she became an adult and could make her own choices, she still depended on the drugs (or as she called them, 'bolts and jolts') to keep her energy up. As a result, she was addicted for many years.

Perhaps, due to her destructive drug habits, even though she was very talented, she faced many career and money troubles. Her substance abuse ultimately led to her death from an accidental overdose in 1969.


While, on the outside, she seemed beautiful, smart, and talented, Judy Garland's private life was far from perfect. She had to survive a troubled childhood, have her dream turned into a nightmare, and soon lost control of everything she had. She was a sweet, pure talent who never stood a chance and has become an epitome of a child star who experienced the dark side of the entertainment industry.

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